The Divide (2011) - Xavier Gens
Following what appears to be a nuclear attack on New York, the residents of an apartment block rush downstairs to escape the building, only to be forced into the basement by further explosions. They lock themselves in, finding the building supervisor already there, and decide to wait until help arrives....
A post-apocalyptic horror film with a cast featuring Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney Vance, Michael Eklund and the requisite strong-and-sexy female character of Lauren German in a claustrophobic setting that's a city dweller's nightmare? It's a good pitch. Unfortunately the film decides to squander it's acting talent and some interesting ideas and themes in what descends into a tacky Lord of the Flies effort without any of the nuance or subtext of that work, instead portraying degrading sexualisation and torture (both mental and physical) of the various characters.
For over two hours.
In a piece this self contained with a limited number of characters, where the director is placing a lot of emphasis on mood and tension we do need to actually care about these people, or at least some of them. What we get instead area a collection of the most unsympathetic and boring people possible; that seem to shout at each other, instead of talk, that decide to explode into craziness for what appears no reason and basically they make no sense as 'real people'. So we have two hours of people we never really care about being unpleasant to each other. The actors have some talent, Eklund as Billy has a pretty fun arc but the rest are paper thin; Biehn, I liked, though that may be more due to my affection for him from Terminator and the films of that era.
However the film isn't all bad; that's what's so disappointing about it. There are some real moments where you see the good film it could have been. Gens does use sound well; from the sounds of the building crashing down around them creating palpable tension to the POV of one of them just after he suffers a concussion. The aesthetic of the film strikes the right tone with its desaturated, grimy lighting and it does have some good ideas. The sequence in the suit and the ambiguity of the situation outside is interesting, as is the way they have to deal with a 'real problem' involving bodies and waste. Unfortunately they're interrupted by long sequences of people just sitting around staring miserably.
I know how they felt.